The Ashes, Third Test, Day One: Pressure Drop

Boycott gives everyone both barrels, Ponting fails again, a giant is on the march and my sleep pattern and marriage are in deep water...
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Boycott gives everyone both barrels, Ponting fails again, a giant is on the march and my sleep pattern and marriage are in deep water...

Everybody, by now, knows that to score runs in Australia you need to be extremely careful for the first 25 overs while the ball is hard and the pitch tinged with green. No stupid shots, no rash decisions, no rushes of blood. Do that, and a big score will follow. England know this, shown by the way Strauss and Cook batted for 12 overs this morning. Somebody, it seems, needs to tell Australia.

Pressure obviously has a part to play. Phil Hughes was wheeled out against the wishes of everybody bar the selectors. Found out by the short ball last summer, he got done up like a kipper by Tremlett who looked fresh from filming his latest Jolly Green giant sweetcorn advert. Hughes was quoted this week as saying the short ball isn't the problem, it's the follow-up ball on a full length that gets him. Why, then, you have to ask, did he play across the line of a straight ball after a bouncer? Is it all pressure?

The Aussies love to talk about teams being 'under the pump'. And while all that conjures is images of Warne and Ponting, bare-chested and arseholed, guzzling from a VB tap in a Sydney knocking shop to the strains of Men at Work, Australia are clearly under something. In fairness to Ricky Ponting, the wild slash that did for him would, nine times out of ten, have ended up rattling to the boundary, rather than nestling in the hands of the leaping Paul Collingwood. Not only one of the greatest slip catches of all-time, it also confirmed that Ponting is now Jimmy Anderson's bitch.

As Bumble said at the close of the innings, this is not a 268 all-out pitch. And had it not been for yet another half century from Mr. Cricket and some gritty lower smashing from Haddin, Johnson and Siddle, this could have been an absolute carve-up and the end of Ricky Ponting.

‘Pressure?’ said Boycott. ‘Pressure is only in your ruddy head.’

If you're looking for a barometer of how far England have come in a decade, then look no further than Sky in the lunch break. After ten minutes of pretty average chat, which mainly consisted of a frighteningly red Botham chuntering and shaking his head, they cut to England v Australia at Headingley in 2001. With the series already lost, Mark Butcher scored 173 not out as England chased down 300-odd. The crowd went berserk with every shot. This was how shit England were, cheering and celebrating a dead match in a dead series.

One of the highlights of any Test series is listening to Geoff Boycott. The moody old bugger was on scintillating form on TMS overnight. Simon Hughes, author, ex-cricketer, stat man and possessor of the least likely nickname in cricket (Yosser, after the character in Alan Bleasdale’s Boys From The Blackstuff) was rambling on about bowling dot balls. Boycott went fucking mental. ‘Dot balls’ big pause…. ‘Dot balls Simon….’ BIGGER PAUSE. ‘Is that why you’re career never took off, because you bowled chuffing dot bolls and not wicket balls?’ Hughes flapped, the production team pissed themselves and Boycott went off into one of his soliloquies. He unleashed the full ticket; sticks of rhubarb, the Queen, his Mother, Ben Hogan, Brian Close, the annoyance of having to sing the national anthem while trying to prepare to bat, how shit Australia are and why selectors need their ‘bloody heads reading.’ Tremendous.

Although England could retain The Ashes in this test, I hate Perth. Its geographical location means that the first ball isn’t bowled until 2am and therefore my sleep pattern, plus marriage, is in deep water. One great thing about Perth is the Fremantle Doctor, a Western Australian term for the cooling sea breeze that floats in and has been a feature of test matches here since the dawn of time and assists bowlers. He was quiet last night, the old doctor, expect him to return from house calls and launch into triage tomorrow. Let’s hope England are bowling.

29-0, England dominant in the field and Chris Tremlett bowling with the venom of a 7 foot giant.

‘Pressure?’ said Boycott. ‘Pressure is only in your ruddy head.’

Advantage England.

PS: You all know that Shane Warne is shagging Liz Hurley, right? Just saying...

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